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Speaking in the Congregation

Q: It may come as a shock to you all..... but how will we keep unity in the faith (one message) if anyone can stand on the stage and add scriptures and give their own interpretations? 

I do agree with this. For several years running I was called upon to give talks in the District Convention. Most of them were family-oriented talks that you looked for a brother with a family to give, even if he wasn’t pioneering, which I wasn’t. They ceased after I turned one down, facing a perfect storm of calamities at the time. During that time, I might cook up my own illustrations, but I would never dream of adding my own scriptures. I knew it was not me that everyone had come to hear.

On the school talks that I give now, sometimes I take small liberties—seldom reading extra verses, but sometimes incorporating excerpts of them in passing. It is all clearly within the pattern of the fine words, done sparingly, and nobody makes a fuss over it. One conductor, though, observed: “You actually didn’t address the theme of the talk” “Oh—I changed that,” I said, and so unexpected was the reply that he almost fell over himself laughing. This was not “adding to doctrine,” or anything—don’t misunderstand—it was merely adding a personal touch to a student talk and everyone understood that. 

I gave a funeral talk in another congregation where one elder, a fine man but known to be a stickler, asked if I was using the Society’s outline, and I said that I wasn’t. He was most concerned because I was neither an elder nor servant, and I hadn’t even known up front whether I would be permitted to give the talk, only the widow had requested me—her husband had been my best man and we had always remained close. After the talk, though, he was content and made no waves. The talk did all that a funeral talk should, plus was personalized as only a best friend might do.

So there might be a few instances where you are the speaker and people wonder how you will handle this or that small part. But they would clearly end at the circuit level, and even at the congregation level, you would be very sparing of what was personal.

There used to be a local speaker in much demand who truly had a gift for speaking. He would twirl the globe he had brought up to the platform, quote Matthew 24:14, “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth” and then put his finger down upon this or that spot representing some local king’s sovereignty: “This good news of the kingdom WILL NOT be preached in MY part of the inhabited earth,” with the air of—who do you think is going to prevail?

He was a great speaker, a good man. But I visited his congregation once when he was conducting the Watchtower. He explained all the questions, and so blatantly ‘over-explained’ everything that I wondered how anyone could stand it. ‘Just ask the questions’ is what you should do, and make your own comments very few. There was no bad motive—he had just become a little full of himself—building upon an obvious talent.

Most often it is something more innocuous. There was another conductor who had some mannerisms—I hate mannerisms!—in fact, that’s where ‘Tom Irregardless’ comes from, he says it so much that I named him that—who would throw in after almost every one of his expressions, words to the effect of ‘That’s helpful, isn’t it?’ Once he announced the dates for the upcoming circuit assembly, and added, ‘that’s helpful, isn’t it?’ ‘I guess it is,” I thought.

It’s people. I love people. These days I find I don’t really like them very much unless they are a little quirky. Sometimes people misunderstand it as ridicule. It’s not. I present it in the spirit of Paul trying to rid himself of a ‘thorn in the flesh’ ‘No way!’ God told him, “I look good when you are a clod, because it is evident that no way could you be doing this on your own.”

...

Upon reading of how I take “certain liberties,” a certain yo-yo encourages me to keep venturing “out of the organizational box.” Why? Because he either thinks that by doing so “my eyes will be opened” or someone will lower the boom on me, because “we must walk in lockstep” and so that will “open my eyes.”

These guys are nuts! They are downright squirrelly loony tunes. Because the irresistible bug of being free from all restrictions! bit them, they are convinced it will bite anyone—and they hope with all their hearts that it does.

I know the meaning and value of relative freedoms. Anybody of common sense does. His wet dream may come true of me (or anyone else) jumping ship, but at present it seems not too likely. I know where my home is, I know when to yield, and I know when to press forward. I have written of it before.

 

 
 

 

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Comments

APB

What do you mean by “relative freedoms”?

[Tom answers: A highway guardrail offers a driver ‘relative freedom.’ It restricts his ability to drive off-road.]

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